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Alex Bowles

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  • Aug 23, 2011 @ 09:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: ^^ Dang. Forgot "less than" invokes HTML: put "enter key" in my last title.

    I believe it's called "taking money from the hand of the devil to put it in the hands of angels."

    Whether this ends up working to the greater advantage of the devil or the angels really depends on who's made the better deal with you.

  • Aug 10, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    Prior Art

    Though the court may not appreciate the joke, it would be hilarious if Prior Art filings were submitted in Ancient Greek, which is the language first used to describe, that's right, "a method for generating maps from datasets."

    For added context, you could provide notes on how those lat/long datasets were generated using a combination of observations plotting the relationships between the north star and the horizon, and the difference in times elapsed between sunset and the start of a given eclipse viewed from two distant cities.

  • Jun 27, 2011 @ 07:47pm

    Re: Photography is not art*. Jazz is not music.

    "Just avoid DERIVATIVE work, and you avoid all these "copyright-ish" problems."

    The whole point of Fair Use provisions is to save people from having to think like this. Indeed, if there were no recognizably valuable and culturally worthwhile derivative works, then the need for Fair Use provisions wouldn't even exist.

    If you don't approve of Fair Use, fine. But the honest thing to do is argue against Fair Use directly. Threatening people with abusive legal action to indirectly suppress what you will not oppose openly just makes you look like a thug.

  • Jun 24, 2011 @ 09:18pm

    The Publishers are right

    One of the uglier facts that surfaced in the 'Kind of Bloop' case is the sheer cost of defending even the most dubious copyright claim. Yes, you can assert Fair Use, but only if you've got (on average) $300,000 to defend that claim in court.

    The burden, in these cases, in on the person claiming fair use. In other words, the plaintiff doesn't have to come with with $300k of their own. That's just you on the hook. And that's just to make your defense. If you fail, it's almost certainly ruinous.

    Given the absurd dollars involved if penalties are imposed, the 'security through obscurity' take no longer makes sense. Combine substantial profit motive with modern data mining, and the odds of not getting caught get worse by the minute.

  • Feb 15, 2011 @ 07:45pm

    double standard?

    Here's work by David LaChapelle that pays (exceedingly close) homage to Andy Warhol.

    Ironically, the 'original' (i.e. Warhol's painting) is - itself - derived from yet another photograph. So by the time LaChapelle took a photo that was composed and processed to look like a painting that was itself an image of an image, the whole "derivative work" thing had taken on several layers. Indeed, they are both derivative works ABOUT derivative works.

    In fairness to LaChapelle, he explicitly credits his source in Warhol. But did he get advance permission from the Warhol estate and pay whatever they would likely charge for this? I have no idea, but if LaChapelle is going to get into a fight like the one he's in, now would be a great time for him to say which side of this issues he's been on in the past.

    Does anyone else know if his "Amanda Lepore as Andy Warhol's Marilyn (Red)" was done with the permission and payment? Or did he just do it because he wanted to, offering nothing more that the credit that *he* felt was due, and nothing more?

  • Dec 30, 2010 @ 03:31pm

    A Fair Use claim would be okay if the subject of the story were the picture itself (as it is here).

    However, claiming they can use the picture freely just because it *relates* to news is not only outside the scope of Fair Use conventions, ruling otherwise would demolish the AFP's business model completely.

  • Dec 28, 2010 @ 02:02pm

    Re: Sadly Enough

    I think that's the line of reasoning exactly. The idea is that collectively, the folks linking to something are creating an ad hoc distribution network around a very specific piece of media.

    Of course, the content creators have done nothing to define or propagate this network. Nor have they invested one dime in the time or resources (bandwidth, processors, displays, etc.) that did produce it. However, due to the (a) the very specific nature of this network and (b) the competition it provides to distribution via channels they do approve of, I can see how they see this as a violation of their monopoly on distribution.

    In theory, this is actually a pretty solid argument. In practice, extending distribution control in this fashion would be hugely damaging. That's why it seem unwise to dismiss this as a perverse and abusive reading of the law. If anything, the idea that links don't constitute a material distribution network seems like the real stretch.

    That said, the analog world recognized that giving publishers absolute control over distribution was a terrible idea. This insight produced the Doctrine of First Sale. The issue of ad hoc link networks seems very similar. They should be given the same kind of limited protection offered to public libraries and second-hand bookstores. It's not an exact analogy, of course, but it is based in the same idea that the public has certain basic freedoms that are exempted from a monopoly over distribution.

    Under this arrangement, a publisher still determines the time and place of a work's introduction. But after that, it loses its absolute control over the work. If a publisher wants to move the target, that's their call. It can disable ad hoc networks by reposting its material to new locations. But in doing so, it'll be forced to kill links it may want to preserve.

    This is similar to Google's position on news. If publishers don't want the traffic provided by Google, they can easily block it. But it's a a take it all or leave it entirely deal. Having it both ways isn't an option.

  • Dec 23, 2010 @ 02:38pm


    Also, his wonderfully succinct line about trolls being people ""who have no intention of solving a problem or building a business but want to get paid by those that do" is the single best description of the problem I've seen, anywhere.

    He gets it. And he describes the problem beautifully.

  • Dec 16, 2010 @ 05:27pm


    At which point the 256bit key for 'Insurance' suddenly becomes very public.

  • Dec 08, 2010 @ 04:31pm


    @ ignorant_s

    The issue is not that this happens. It's that it happens on our dime. We can't control what they do, but we can sure as hell decide what we do.

    Like what Senator McCain said about torture (shortly before losing his mind completely) "It's not about who they are. It's about who we are".

    Also, reason #3,247 why getting into a land war in Asia is a bad idea.

  • Dec 02, 2010 @ 07:52pm

    Re: Re: Evidence please :)


  • Dec 02, 2010 @ 07:48pm


    That's Assange's goal in a nutshell. He thinks that it's impossible to remain effective if you're competing with organizations that - because they're essentially fearless and just - can also be quite open, allowing them full access to a range of useful and efficient communications channels.

    Meanwhile, ShadyOrg - which has become increasingly paranoid, and focused on everyone's junk - can only communicate via Secret Decoder Rings and tame pigeons. Over time, asymmetry in access to communication platforms favors the just, while imposing a major tax on the unjust.

    In his view, what you call "good stuff" is really bad stuff, and the weaker the communications are among the people who traffic in it, the better off the rest of humanity will be.

    That's the theory, anyway.

  • Dec 01, 2010 @ 01:52pm

    Best quote

    From the same Economist piece:

    Of course, those jealously protective of the privileges of unaccountable state power will tell us that people will die if we can read their email, but so what? Different people, maybe more people, will die if we can't.

  • Nov 30, 2010 @ 04:55pm



    If you're truly curious about "the purpose of what he's doing", see here, where Assange describes his intent and approach explicitly. Among other things, this link explains why value lies not in the content of the leaks, but in the persistence of the leaks themselves.

    Separately, do you honestly believe that the State Department has spent the last decade helping the US "avoid resorting to violence"? More to the point, aren't you worried about the intelligence of a government that responds to an attack emanating from Saudi Arabia by invading Iraq? Do you think Bush and his self-serving advisers would have made the same decision if the environment in 2002/03 was as leaky as we know it is today?

    And what about this bank dump slated for January? Do you think its contents would exist if leakiness were factored into people's thinking *before* the mortgage fraud machine kicked into gear? If the communication that enabled the fraud never took place, do you think the crime itself would reached global-economy-wrecking proportions?

    Beyond this, are you seriously focused on a handful of people who "might" get harmed while ignoring the millions and millions of people who have been absolutely harmed - hundreds of thousands to the point of actual death? Given the number of killings and bankruptcies suffered by innocents in the last decade, don't you think a shift away from pernicious duplicity would save exponentially more lives and fortunes than the transition to more transparent governance would claim? Just remember, no one has provided hard evidence of a *single* death resulting from the last dump, and that targeted the Pentagon, not the State Department.

    Indeed, if the government took your advice and (literally) shot the messenger, Assnage would become the first person to actually loose his life in this development. Do you think Assange hasn't anticipated this by ensuring that his death triggers the release of far more material that isn't just "petty diplomatic bullshit and gossip"? Do you honestly think that murdering this guy is the best and smartest way for an already dubious institution to respond?

    So now, having thought about it, you may realize that what you just suggested was stupid, viscous, and extremely counter-productive. Unfortunately, we're governed by people who don't get this at all. They actually think Assange is the threat to the institutions they're responsible for, even though he's just released "petty gossip" while they've spent the last decade blowing up budgets, economies, and nations with impunity.

    And that's the point of Wikileaks: to take the lawless, murderous, and ridiculously short-sighted instincts you just displayed here, and turn them into major liabilities for the high offices that currently harbor them in abundance. That's bad for the ethically retarded monsters who end up marginalized by their own paranoia and ignorance. It's a huge win for the rest of humanity.

  • Nov 30, 2010 @ 03:06pm

    Re: Reaction sounds familiar

    That's *exactly* the point Assange has made himself. His leaking of low-grade gossip is entirely deliberate. On the one hand, it deflects the most serious accusations against him (endangering troops and spies), while prompting officials to make themselves look like idiots when they switch on the hysteria about DANGER - especially when the hysteria is conspicuously unsupported by evidence.

    More importantly, he realizes that his aims are served less by the content of the leaks, and more by the (widespread) existence of the leaks themselves. Here's what Assange has to say about their effects;

    "The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive ?secrecy tax?) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption. Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance."

    There's a great expansion of this idea here. The essence is that marginal organizations confronting the reality of leaks will start operating in less duplicitous, more socially responsible ways (e.g. not invading Iraq in response to attacks coming from Saudi Arabia), while the truly bad will turn on themselves, locking down their internal communications so severely they render themselves impotent. In either case, humanity wins.

  • Nov 18, 2010 @ 04:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It also means not including anything that contravenes existing law. Once that line is crossed, then it needs to go through Congress. Oh, and that makes it a treaty.

    So the question for our friends supporting this becomes "how can you call this an Executive Agreement when it requires changes to existing law?"

    The are two possible answers - (1) "Actually, it doesn't" or (2) "Well, actually it does, so you're right, this is a treaty."

    Given that one of this is a flat-out lie, you can be absolutely sure which one you'll get. Hint: it's not #2.

  • Nov 05, 2010 @ 04:02pm

    Re: Re-arranging deck chairs

    One reasonable compromise is to return the law to its industrial roots. You'd do that by making it applicable only to corporate entities, and spare individuals entirely.

    From the perspective of creative individuals or small teams (e.g. a band), the law would continue to protect their work from being appropriated by incorporated publishers and distributors (i.e. virtually all of them).

    From the perspective of incorporated publishers (e.g. Warner Bros. Studios), the law would prevent their peers from freely redistributing their $250k investments (i.e. theaters, streaming providers, and retail outlets, would still have to deal directly with the studio, or not at all).

    From the perspective of the audience, it's do whatever you want. Seriously, *whatever* you want. Hang a sheet in the backyard and charge admission to your boozy bootleg movie nights, if you like. Just know that if your operation gets big enough to justify the liability protection of a corporate shell, then you'll be expected to play by professional rules.

    In reality, this imposes a pretty serious limit on the sphere of unregulated media, meaning there's still a big business for publishers (in the broadest sense) to make money (a) through enhanced experiences that small groups of individuals could never feasibly provide and (b) through licensing deals and cross promotion with other incorporated entities.

    It also side-steps many of the growing First Amendment challenges to copyright restrictions by only regulating the speech of entities that own their existence to the state. Separately, fears about 'corporate persons' becoming equal citizens are overblown - there are all sorts of rules, like truth in advertising laws, that effectively and legally limit their speech. In other words, it's possible for a First Amendment ruling to distinguish between individual and corporate speech, and to only restrict the latter.

    Obviously, this still involves a big hit for existing publishers. Initially they will lose a lot (even more than they have to date). The few strong enough to survive will have to work very hard to find new points of equilibrium. These are likely to represent smaller slices of a bigger pie. Even if these slices are ultimately more lucrative, they still won't supply the absolute cultural dominance that media conglomerates once enjoyed.

    However, the system *is* likely to enjoy widespread public support, meaning these firms become good guys again (cultural pinnacles, in fact), and can rest assured knowing that the limited protection they still enjoy is - once again - sacrosanct.

    Given the alternative (entrenched violent abolition), this starts to look like a win for them as well.

  • Nov 02, 2010 @ 09:29pm


    Not necessarily. The position is a fairly severe rebuke, not just to the genetic issue, but to the larger idea that patents = progress.

    That's the gist of the opposition here; not only do gene patents this seem ethically dubious, but worse, it looks like they may be counterproductive.

    If a field this conspicuous gets removed from the patent arena, then undergoes an explosive renaissance as a result more people will be asking about what other fields could enjoy a major economic boost if the governing IP rules were curtailed.

    That's a bad question for the USPTO to be fielding at the best of times. In the midst of a protracted economic slump, it's a live grenade.

  • Oct 11, 2010 @ 02:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Question

    That's what's so awesome about Wyden's approach. He gets this, and sees it as a problem.

    Indeed, he seems to recognize that flexibility itself is a fundamental component of IP law. He's realizing that even if the ACTA treaty doesn't conflict with any current laws (unlikely, but work with me here), it can *still* be in conflict with the law (and thus, ineligible for the Executive Agreement status used to evade Congressional oversight) if it destroys the law's essential adaptability.

    This "freeze the law by signing a treaty" strategy is the exact same tack that's been used by the Drug Warriors to such catastrophic effect. A bit part of the reason that the Feds are stuck enforcing the current drug laws is that they've been woven into all sorts of international treaties that prohibit any of the signatories from making any internal change.

    Prior to the Internet (and its ability to foster international cooperation) this effectively ended democratic process, since it progress demanded coordinated effort between a majority of voters in every single participating nation to undo the damage.

    This is still a major hurdle, but is now surmountable in theory. Two decades ago, that wasn't even imaginable. A decade or so from now, it may be a practical reality.

    God bless the Internet.

  • Oct 11, 2010 @ 02:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: w00t

    Separately, what you're saying is that only sales of goods and services should be taxed.

    Investment income, property, and inheritance should all (for some completely unspecified reason) be 100% tax free.

    This is brutally unfair, and totally insane. For one thing, it puts all eggs in one basket. If the economy slows, the entire government crashes. Distributing the sources of taxation is fundamental to basic stability.

    You scheme also means placing the heaviest burden on those least able to pay, since the poorer you are, the more of your income you spend on goods and services. If 100% of your income is spent just making ends meet, then 100% of your income is taxed, and your effective tax rate is the same as the sales tax. But if you're doing a bit better, and can save or invest, then your tax rate starts to drop. At the top (where relatively little of your totally income may be spent on goods and services), your effective tax rate is a fraction of that paid by the lowest ranking members of society. And that's an even bigger threat to social stability than boom / bust budgeting for governments.

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